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Imagine U

Imagine U productions are geared toward children and their families. Performances often include an opportunity for children to interact afterwards with the cast and receive colorful take-home programs filled with activities, art projects, fun facts and games! Past productions have included THE HUNDRED DRESSES, JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH (Chicago premiere), A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD, CHARLOTTE’S WEB, THE RELUCTANT DRAGON, and many more!

Imagine U Storytime

Wirtz Center’s ‘Imagine U Storytime’ returns September 20

Northwestern theater students, faculty and alumni share weekly stories for young audiences online.

Global fairytales from Japan and South Africa and contemporary classics “The Rainbow Fish” and “Frozen,” will mark the return of “Imagine U Storytime,” the online storytelling series presented by the Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts and the department of theater at Northwestern University.

The weekly video series relaunches Sept. 20 on the Wirtz Center YouTube channel. New videos, each lasting 15 minutes, are posted at 6 p.m. on Sundays, and remain online for streaming.

“Imagine U Storytime” began in April of 2020 as a way to connect community members through the arts during the global pandemic.

According to Rives Collins, department chair of theatre at Northwestern’s School of Communication, the series aims to provide engaging content for families to enjoy together at home, as well as highlight the talented students in the theatre for young audiences training program.

“It has been remarkable to see what our students have created to delight young audiences,” said Lynn Kelso, Imagine U founder and creative mentor. “We are very excited to return to continue to share these artistic gifts with our families in these challenging times.”

Upcoming “Imagine U Storytime” programs include:

“The Jungle Book”
Sunday, Oct. 25, 6 p.m. CDT
When Bhagira the Panther found an abandoned child, Mowgli, in the middle of the dangerous Seoni forest, he didn’t understand the consequences of his kind heart. Our story takes you along Mowgli’s adventures with the creatures of the jungle 10 years later, and his struggle for safety from the ferocious tiger, Sher-Khan. His encounters with snakes, elephants, monkeys, and bears teach him about family being more than blood, and what it means to be brave. Drawing inspiration from the Rudyard Kipling tale, this journey will be led by NU graduate student Skye Strauss’s enthralling shadow puppets and even teach you to make your own at the end! Join Claire Guthrie (’24), Hayden Sikora (’24), Robbie Matthew (’24), Cora Maelea Tan (’24), Connor Martin (’24), and Mantra Radhakrishnan (’24) on a journey through this classic story.

“The Apple Tree’s Discovery”
Sunday, Nov. 1, 6 p.m. CDT

Northwestern student Valen-Marie Santos (’21) shares her own interpretation of the religious folktale “The Apple Tree’s Discovery,” a story about a young apple tree who dreams of having stars on her branches. This story is very special to Valen-Marie, who grew up hearing it every year from her childhood drama teacher. This is a story about recognizing your own worth and finding the “star” within yourself!

“The Thread of Yarn” by Alex  Manna
Sunday, Nov. 8, 6 p.m. CDT

From the modern, yet rural streets of Egypt, to the buzzing cities of the U.S., one thread tied Alex Manaa’s (’22) family together over the oceans and over the years – their love of cats. This original story told by the author, tells how that passion unified them.  

“The Elephant in the Zoom”
Sunday, Nov. 15, 6 p.m. CST

It’s been a while since these three puppet pals have caught up, and they have SO much to talk about! Over a video call, they check in, and after a disappointing day in Zoom class, the friends help one another break down a hurtful incident. Together, they learn to stand up for themselves and their identities. The most powerful way they can find is by celebrating their own names with pride. Join Gabriela Furtado Coutinho (’23), Mark Berry (’23) and Rachel Hilbert (’23) in standing together, even when apart!  

The story was created especially for “Imagine U Storytime” by Northwestern’s own Purple Crayon Players, and written by Coutinho, Arella Flur (’23), Jonathan Van De Loo (’23) and Olivia Escousse (’23).

“Imagine U Storytime” is inspired by the popular Imagine U performance series geared toward families with young children. The frequently sold-out productions take well-known children’s classics and adapt them for the stage. The program includes an opportunity to meet the cast, participate in workshops, and receive a take-home program with activities related to the production themes.

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* Photo: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (2014) Justin Barbin Photography